The River Remains; ake tonu atu
Wai Ching Chan
Artspace NZ is pleased to present The River Remains; ake tonu atu, this years iteration of the New Artist Show:
At the time of writing, there are two weeks until the opening event. In one sense the exhibition is already underway. The Artspace NZ gallery commonly understood and experienced as exhibition space is now a zone of thinking. Artspace NZ is for the minute a multi-person relational entity comprised of Bronte, Faamele, Olyvia, Tyson, and Wai, the curators, and mentors around the project. The exhibition,The River Remains; ake tonu atu is an opportunity for the collective reconsideration of the conceptual, aesthetic, political and social concerns that these artists address to the conventions and institutions around contemporary art practice.
The exhibition is conceptualised as a durational “event,” one that reframes ways of thinking and being for the artists, the institution and the audience alike. For the five artists the exhibition speaks to the process of rhizomatic creative exchanges central to the dialogues around the production of the exhibition. The necessity of dialogue to navigate both aesthetics and the social circumstances around exhibition is a central tenet for each artist in the show. The process emphasizes the notion of walking backwards into the future. The sight of what the exhibition is will be understood in retrospect.
The whakatauki, Ka mua, ka muri, aptly describes the practices by each artist alluding to the significance of indigeneity for their practices and in framing institutional dialogues. They are each examining where they have come from, what they have decided to bring with them to Artspace NZ, what priorities are paramount. In their hands, the gallery has, for the minute, been stripped of its primary function to present the outcomes of art practices and aesthetic research. Artspace NZ is now the site for the production of a series of ethical dialogues by the artists and curators who are together concerned with the aesthetic, the social, the economic and political realities of art production. The outcomes of these elliptical and vital conversations address questions toward art as a contemporary practice embedded complex, networked systems.
The artists speak of holding the institution “to ransom” in order to engage with and imagine ways to re-formulate these embedded practices. To this extent, the gallery is now a laboratory for these artists. The collective imagining of a variety of means to place the value and importance of the ‘social’ is at the forefront of this project ahead of any indexical aesthetic register or consideration of the commodity value of art.
– Steve Lovett
This year's New Artist Show continues the mentorship format of previous years - wherein emerging artists are supported by senior practitioners during an intense time of production Artspace NZ transforms into a working studio.
Evolving from New Perspectives with Simon Denny in 2016, and Dirt Future with Hamishi Farah in 2017, this year’s The River Remains; ake tonu atu offers guidance from artist nominated mentor, artist and educator Steve Lovett, the internal team of Artspace NZ, and visiting mentors.
This journey started with an open call entitled No Fingerlicking, in which applicants were challenged to respond to “take bodily ownership of our future and turn the page”. Since late August, the artists have been working in what is normally a public exhibition space, concentrating away from the public eye on collective and supportive work. This result is not only the exhibition, but also a statement, a form of documentation that shows steps of their research and common concerns in relation to the institute that invited them, the social obligations that are being expected and the imagination that is placed on artists and their works.
Remco de Blaaij, Director Artspace NZ says: “It has been great to experience Artspace NZ as a living workplace, it has been weeks of intense work and crucial discussions for everyone involved. It makes one think on how we can learn from them, support their mahi and to celebrate the high-level of social thinking within contemporary NZ arts practice.”
Tyson Campbell (Te Rarawa/ Ngāti Maniapoto) is a Narrm/Melbourne based multi-disciplinary artist whose work is engaged with the relationships between the indigenous and settler imaginaries. Tyson is currently researching non-performativity as a way of de-railing and de-legitimising control, discipline and punishment within contractractual agreements of social and financial outcomes of culture. Tyson has exhibited in ‘Blakqueer Futurism’ at Blak-Dot Gallery (2018), Põuliuli (Faitautusi ma fā’alinga) at Westspace (2017), Emerging Cultural Leaders Exhibition at Footscray Community Arts Centre (2017). In 2017 Tyson has curated three shows including; Disconnection and Reconnection at Blak-Dot gallery, Lobster II at Zambesi Melbourne and High-Pile Low-Pile at Magic Johnston studio. Tyson is also part of the Pacifika collective New-Way Finders. Tyson currently identifies as a Blak Dot Gallery Mokopuna/baby.
Wai Ching Chan is an Auckland based artist who recently graduated from Bachelor of Fine Arts in Honours at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Her research has been informed by discourses around cultural identity, diaspora, displacement and post-colonialism. Reflecting on her relationship to Aotearoa, she hopes to recalibrate her art practice through the journey of learning as a tauiwi.
Faamele Etuale has recently completed a Bachelor in Creative Arts and an Advanced Diploma in Jewellery at Manukau Institute of Technology. As an artist, her passion stems from her formative nature as a painter, throughout her studies Faamele became fascinated with adornment. Contemporary Jewellery offered a medium to capture and archive memories through object. Her process is indicated by pivotal moments in life, adornment has created a structure for her to encase, reflect and release emotion.
Olyvia Hong has recently completed her undergraduate at Elam School of Fine Arts graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with first class honours in 2017. Olyvia is continuing her studies at Elam, currently working toward a Masters in Fine Arts. Born in Aotearoa and raised in various suburbs in Tāmaki Makarau, her practice is influenced by this early experience, exploring how self identity can form within a collective identity. As an activist, along with her peers she spent early 2018 fighting the closure of the Elam Fine Arts Library. Moving forward, Olyvia is one of the co-ordinators behind the Samoa House Library, an establishment that aims to fill the void left by this historical closure. Recent group exhibitions include Protagonist (Elam Projectspace), I Understand If You’re Busy (RM), Dog Pit (Satchi&Satchi&Satchi) and Rabbit on the Moon (Hapori Vol. 6).
South Auckland ‘born ‘n’ bred’ Bronte Perry has an artist practice based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Perry’s work is invested in utilising the notions around whakapapa, whanaungatanga to analyse religious trauma. They have recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours, from the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. Throughout their practice Perry has drawn from their lived experiences to explore socio-political contexts through immersive installation and sculpture.
With special thanks to visiting mentors:
Cameron Ah Loo-Matamua
Shannon Te Ao